April Campaigns News – wild encounters and an update on Raithwaite
It’s never quiet around here for the campaigns team. We’ve heard back on one of our biggest and most concerning campaigns, plans for holiday lodges in Whitby. We are keen to update you on the latest developments. And as soon as we start thinking that applications affecting ancient woods couldn’t get any stranger, we are proven wrong. This month it’s wild animals posing a risk to ancient woodland. We certainly never expected that to be the case! Read on for the full story.
Update on Raithwaite
Last year, Scarborough Borough Council received an application for a holiday development within ancient woodland at the Raithwaite Estate, Whitby. After considering the severe impacts on ancient woodland that would occur, we campaigned against the scheme. We were joined in our objection by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the North York Moors National Park Authority, and hundreds of locals. All this pressure worked. The councillors on Scarborough’s planning committee turned down the application.
Since then, evidence that some of the affected area is not actually ancient woodland was sent to Natural England (NE). NE has accepted this evidence, resulting in the loss of the protection given to these woods by planning policy. A new application has now been submitted for the development, but this time it appears that the applicants have taken the work of the Trust and fellow objectors into consideration. The holiday lodges have now been moved outside of woodland areas into clearings and, most importantly, away from the remaining areas of ancient woodland.
We still have concerns over the intensification of human activity within the ancient woodland and the adverse impacts that would occur if this pressure is not managed. Recreational use can be hugely damaging to this fragile ecosystem and its wildlife due to footfall, disturbance, noise, litter and light pollution. As such, we have submitted a holding objection to Scarborough Borough Council until we receive further information as to how the applicants intend to manage recreational pressure on the ancient woodland.
This month we’ve had not one, but two applications from zoos to set up enclosures that will cause permanent damage to precious ancient woodland sites.
Bristol Zoo wishes to highlight the implications of habitat loss in the UK by reinstating some of the wild predators we have lost as part of a ‘British ancient woodland’ exhibit. But the problem is, ironically, that in doing so they will actually be causing destruction of this ancient habitat. We hope that’s not their intention!
On the face of it, it does sounds like an exciting idea, reintroducing wolves, bears, lynx and wolverines to the ancient woods of the UK where they used to live. But digging deeper, our experts can see these plans would be devastating for the ancient woodland, known as Blackhorse Wood. Penning wolves, bears and other large mammals into a small area (in comparison to their natural ranges) is not the same as them roaming free and naturally in wild forests. In the same way we would be concerned by intensive damage from humans staying in ancient woodland, the same could be expected of these large animals. Ancient woods are unique and delicate, having developed from their undisturbed soils over centuries. Any ongoing physical disturbance would eventually wreck these soils, resulting in the loss of the integrity of the ecosystem. The construction of buildings and fences in the woodland will also result in direct loss. And should wolves and bears even be living together in close proximity? That one is not for us to say!
Another well-meaning but inappropriate project is that of Yorkshire Wildlife Park. They wish to set up an enclosure in Old Spring Wood to provide a retirement home for a mysterious animal. The species was not disclosed in the plans. Similar to Bristol Zoo, this would result in permanent loss and damage to the woodland from the intensive use and infrastructure built on the site. Therefore, we will be opposing both sets of plans. These wild creatures will need to set up shop somewhere that won’t result in further loss of our already declining biodiversity.
Time to set things right
The fact that our woods under threat team is constantly firefighting new threats highlights that our irreplaceable habitats are not getting the protection they need. Our ancient woods and our oldest trees have fallen victim to inappropriate developments for too long. In recent proposals, the government has stated it will give ancient woodland stronger protection in planning policy. Whilst this is positive for ancient woods, it has separated aged and veteran trees from this protection and removed the recognition that they are also irreplaceable. This would see a reduction in protection of our ancient trees. We’re campaigning to make sure both ancient woods and trees get stronger and equal protection. Please lend us your voice and help us make sure Government fixes this mistake.